To win consistently in the NHL, your team needs to be good at a lot of different areas of the game. Everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction, virtually all of the time. Because when you lose the rope, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes, things can go pear shaped really quickly. Like, say, giving up three goals in less than fives minutes. That can happen.
The first period of tonight’s game got off to a good start for the Sens when some solid forechecking and cycling by Matt Duchene led to a wonderful chance in front for Mikkel Boedker, who couldn’t quite find the handle in time to get the puck up and over a fallen Carey Price. “Sens miss great chance” would unfortunately prove to be a recurring theme for the evening.
One thing that’s never been missing from Ottawa-Montreal match-ups is the physical play and early in the opening frame it became clear that tonight’s game would be no different. The Sens earned the first power play of the game after Max Domi took issue with Drake Batherson dropping the shoulder on Andrew Shaw and attempted to fight (?!) the youngster.
Unfortunately, if you believe in things like momentum you could make a compelling that the Sens’ subsequent power play killed all of theirs. Ottawa barely gained the zone during their whole time with the man advantage, and not long after Domi’s penalty expired, Mark Stone took a kneeing penalty to put the Habs up a man. Montreal’s power play looked a lot more threatening than Ottawa’s, but the scoreless tie was not broken until Jonathan Drouin converted a pass from Domi on a 2-on-1 with 5:30 left in the period:
The Sens pushed back at the end of the first, thanks to Colin White’s line, but couldn’t find the equalizer. They did, however, carry a 4-on-3 power play into the start of the second after coincidental minors to Brady Tkachuk and Michael Chaput and then a tripping penalty to Brendan Gallagher. Shots after one were 17-10 Montreal, and attempts were 28-16, 19-15 at 5v5. Montreal was the better team, but I wouldn’t say they dominated play.
There were parts of the second period that went really well for Ottawa. Though they didn’t score, the power play looked much better than its first go round and only a bit of bad luck kept Tkachuk from the tying goal after he worked a shot off Price and then the pipe in tight.
Dylan DeMelo actually did equalize 8:49 into the frame on a real knuckle-ball from the point:
So, halfway through the second period we had ourselves a 1-1 game and the shots were even at 20-20. The Sens had clawed their way back into it, Craig Anderson was looking great, the White line in particular was humming for Ottawa and it seemed like we were in for a real grind to the finish.
Then the whole thing totally fell apart:
All of that happened in less than four minutes and the Sens were basically cooked from there. Shots were 29-23 Habs after two, attempts were 55-33 overall and 44-28 at 5v5.
The third period brought another goal for Montreal and a late one from Stone, but Ottawa never really pushed the Habs. Shots at one point were 10-2 for Montreal in the final frame, and they were full value for it. Ottawa’s had some remarkable comebacks this season, but this just never felt like one they were going to get back into. The Canadiens cruised to a 5-2 victory.
There’s plenty of blame to go around when a game slips away so totally, but to my eye much of the Sen’s defensive struggles tonight actually stemmed from an inability to complete more than one or two passes to break out of their end, or to keep up the pressure in the offensive end. Ottawa fought the puck all night, especially the defensemen. Christian Jaros had a couple of nice stretch passes, but virtually every other rearguard, including Thomas Chabot, struggled badly. It’s a simple thing, but it adds up over time when you’re never sustaining any zone time.
Montreal deserved this one, clearly. Round two awaits on Thursday.
- Price has had his struggles to start this year, but he was sharp in keeping Ottawa at bay before Montreal blew the game open at the end of the second.
- Not much by the way of performances to highlight for the Sens, but White again caught my eye with his strong skating. He was probably the Sens’ best forward tonight.
- Matt Duchene recorded an assist tonight and looked threatening on several occasions with the puck. He’s been a real treat to watch all year.
- Domi can be awfully dirty player at times, but his partnership with Drouin tonight was electric for Montreal tonight. /
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